I first published this in May 2012 and it received more hits than any article I’ve posted. If you preach on a regular basis as well as other pastoral and leadership responsibilities, a long term sermon calendar can help in huge ways. In 2015, I still make one – my current calendar is built through May 2016 with a few weeks of gaps in two places. With this TBT, I’ve edited the post with some updates. The original is here.
If you preach on a regular basis, you’ve experienced
blank page blank screen syndrome. Sunday’s comin’ whether you’re ready or not. Sunday is a mistress and she is indifferent to your mood, what has happened during the week or your level of preparation. (Tony Campolo’s famous title, “Its Friday But Sunday’ Comin'” is fire and brimstone for a preacher!)
Most preachers I know wear multiple hats so in the face of a recurring deadline for one of our key roles, we need habits and tools to help us along. One such tool is the 12 month sermon calendar.
Just recently I’ve taken to making my own beef jerky. My kids are jerky fanatics and making our own is much cheaper than buying. Jerky, it turns out, is all about marination time. The longer you marinate the meat, the better the taste. And so we segue into the 12 month preaching calendar. Its about extending the marination time of ideas and creating a way to capture and retrieve random ideas.
My preaching calendar is the result of a planning retreat. If I didn’t get away for a night or two, I’d never get a calendar built. You can’t build one on the fly, or in an afternoon. You have to build it, pray over it, move things around, pray over it. Not unlike an actual sermon, the calendar comes together over time, with marination. Before I go on retreat, I ask our elders, key staff and some volunteers for input into sermon ideas. What do they think should be covered over the coming year? We look at the previous 24 months of series, current cultural challenges, topics a skeptic would engage and books of the Bible we’ve not covered. After the retreat, I run the calendar by our elders and also hand it out to planning staff.
As for series ideas, I keep a running document of ideas that I can pull from. My current document is 7 pages long with 36 different sermon series. I’ve also attached a sample pdf of sermon series ideas. Some of the ideas are really bad, some are stale because they’ve been sitting there so long. For example, when I came up with the title, “Grudge Report” for a series on Forgiveness, the “Drudge Report” was known in pop culture. I’m not sure it is still as known now. MC Hammer, on the other hand…..he’ll always preach!
A third document: a place to capture content for the upcoming sermon series. Random ideas, quotes, pictures, interviews and stories that relate to that sermon series. I used Evernote App for this.
So long term sermon planning is a combination of planning retreat, sermon calendar, future series ideas and “next series” content capturing. These tools work really well to keep a preacher’s head well above the coming Sunday and give months of lead time to collect stories, marinate ideas etc.
I now open my computer Monday morning and almost feel naughty with the content already waiting for me.
I’ve attached 3 example documents if you find them helpful. These 3 are old, but flesh out what a calendar can look like: (warning: long content!)